In its quest to redifine the public service, as per the recent public service study, the government has numerous interventions up its sleeves, come April 1st this year. The study was conducted to unearth the challenges of the civil service and recommend possible intervention strategies.
The recent decision by President Lt Gen Ian Khama and the public service boss, Ruth Maphorisa to downsize the public service by not replacing resigning and retiring employees was only the beginning as it will be followed by strict measures to make sure that the public service stays in shape and maintains its effectiveness and efficiency.
Khama recently revealed that he wants civil servants to be promoted on performance basis. During a visit to civil servants in Kweneng, the President said: “I would not have a problem if a perfoming certicate holder is promoted to supervise a degree holder or any other higher qualification if that certicate holder is a better perfomer.We want people who are willing to serve,” he said.
The reasons behind downsizing the civil service,Weekendpost has established will be to; “make it more affordable and to bring it in line with the new-scaled down role of the government in economic activities and to provide civil service with approapriate incentives,skills and motivation to enhance management and accountability.” Botswana’s wage bill is at 16/17 million Pula from a 54 billion budget and there are hundred and thirty thousand civil servants in the country.
A high ranking source at DPSM said that the downsizing will be achieved by privatising many of the inefficient and ineffective public agencies.The government, he said, will thus establish a symbiotic relationship between the private and public sector to achieve the goals of development.There has been constant clashes between the government and the private sector over the develoment of the country.
Maphorisa confirmed in an enterview with Weekendpost that Permanent Secretaries (PSs) and the rest of the civil service will with effect from the 1st of April be required to put on name tags among others. Ministers however will be excluded from this exercise.
The study has recommended the governmenment to inject new values and work ethics, approaches and attitudes to meet the growing demand for efficiency and productivity. Name tags, according to the study, will add discipline, a greater awareness of time and a sense of responsibility among others.
Our source revealed that “the government with the aid of the study has come to the realisation that the civil service traditionaly serves the state rather than the citizens, a culture that the government intends to root out”.
Despite this, another study by Salvator Schiaro-Campo has established that “in many countries in the South Saharan Africa, the civil service has sharply deteriorated,Botswana being one of the few exceptions.”
While he commends the emergence of local community initiatives,Campo says it is difficult to imagine how the civil service can be reformed on a lasting basis in most African countries without substancial improvements in governance,accountability,transparency and adherence to the rule of law.
Rightsizing-risks and oppotunities Campo’s service study revealed that, “central government employment may be high in a particular country as a useful “flag” but proves nothing in and of itself. The role of the government and degree of centralization vary from country to country”.
“For example, although France’s central civil service, as a percentage of population, is one of the world’s largest (about 3.5 percent), and the United Kingdom’s is one of the smallest (1 percent), total government employment accounts for around 10 percent of the population in both countries,” he said further adding that what this proves is merely that the French have chosen a more centralized system of government.
Determining the “right size” of a government workforce,he said, must be done on a country-by-country basis, taking into account the functions assigned to the state in that country, the degree of centralization, the skills profile, and, of course, the fiscal outlook.
Retrenchment according to Campo,can provide the where-withal to improve incentives and produce fiscal savings. But overemphasis on re-trenchment gives civil service reform a bad name and virtually ensures resistance.
“Moreover, retrenchment is almost always financially costly in the short term—and is often politically costly as well, particularly when unemployment is high. Political costs are not inevitable, however. Under certain conditions, public support for downsizing the government may offset opposition from those whose jobs are threatened, and internal opposition can be defused if downsizing is managed candidly and equitably,” he said.
According to Campo,when downsizing is necessary, it should not be approached as an end in itself or merely as a reaction to fiscal problems.
“Without careful planning and respect for the “law of unintended consequences,” retrenchment programs carry major risks. The short-term risk is skill reduction, if the program inadvertently encourages the best people to leave”, the study warned.
Furthermore,according to the study, “(Voluntary severance and early retirement can be especially problematic in this respect. The difficulty is that these downsizing measures are the easiest to carry out.) The medium-term risk is recurrence of overstaffing if personnel man-agement and control systems are not strengthened. Long-term risks include staff demoralization, lower-quality service, and loss of credibility if retrenchment is perceived as arbitrary and opaque, particularly in societies ridden with ethnic, clan, or religious conflicts”.
What are other reform measures? In addition to cost containment, civil service reform includes diagnostic and structural measures. Structural measures,according to Campo encompass reforming the salary structure, especially to restore competitiveness at higher levels; increasing the transparency and fairness of civil service regulations and giving greater weight to merit; increasing internal mobility; strengthening the capac-ity to manage personnel; providing training; and increasing accountability to the public.
Diagnostic measures on the other hand include civil service censuses, functional reviews of ministries, user surveys, data collection, and preparation of compendiums of regulations.
“Even in countries where circumstances are not yet conducive to reform, governments are often interested in diagnostic measures. A particularly useful starting point is a civil service census, which, if well designed, will not only uncover “ghost” workers and fraudulent wage payments but also provide the foundation for a human resources database and improved personnel management systems—which are needed to, among other things, prevent the recurrence of irregularities,” he said.
Wage policy Campo warns that the short-term fiscal savings from com-pressing wages are obvious but must not be allowed to drive wage policy. Deter-mining the adequacy of wages,he says, requires a country-specific, in-depth comparison of public-private wage differentials for compa-rable skills.
“Certainly, when public wages are too high relative to private wages, pub-lic wage cuts improve both resource alloca-tion and equity. However, developing countries typically have either barely com-petitive or inadequate public wages. In these cases, public wage cuts set in motion a vicious circle of demotivation, underper-formance, and justification for further reductions. (Fortunately, the reverse may also be true: even small wage increases can trigger a positive dynamic),” he added.
In practice,Campo says government wage reduction has usually entailed larger proportionate cuts at higher levels (or salary caps) and, thus, progressively greater salary compres-sion.
“(Internationally, average public wages range between 3 and 6 times per capita income, and the “compression ratio” be tween the highest and the lowest salary ranges from 3:1 to 20:1, with a norm of about 7:1.) Although the short-term equity considerations are understandable, the long-term outcomes of such a policy are the departure of better employees, difficulty inrecruiting qualified outsiders, and a “deskilled” labor force too poorly paid to resist temptation, cowed by pressures from politicians and influential private interests and unable to perform adequately.
Beyond the deterioration of public goods and services, the result is a worsening economic climate for the private sector and an increase in transaction costs for the economy as a whole,”he said in his study.
He continued that In recent years, governments have sought ways to target wage increases to essential skills or functions. This,he said, may well be the right policy, but a word of caution about “performance pay” is in order here.
“It is intuitively appealing to link bonuses to yearly performance in terms of specific out-put measures. However, the facts show that bonus schemes have been only marginally effective in improving performance, even in the private sector and especially in the public sector, where outputs are difficult to quantify,” he warned.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.